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Mother Nature's greatest masterpiece, the Elephant

Updated on August 12, 2015

Wednesday August 12, 2015: World Elephant Day

This is the fourth annual World Elephant day. Why is there a World Elephant Day? Because the Elephants of the world are in trouble and need our help! Just in the last ten years, the Elephant population has dropped 62%. Each day an estimated 100 elephants are killed by poachers mainly for their ivory. If the elephants are to survive, the demand for ivory must be drastically reduced.

Elephants are a keystone species. It means they create and maintain the ecosystems in which they live and make it possible for a myriad of plant and animal species to live in those environments as well. The loss of elephants gravely affects many species that depend on elephant-maintained ecosystems and causes major habitat chaos and a weakening to the structure and diversity of nature itself. To lose the elephant is to lose an environmental caretaker and an animal from which we have much to learn.

Over the past year, the World Elephant Day campaign has reached millions of people, prompting hundreds of thousands of individuals to act in various ways to show their concern for the elephants’ plight. We’ve seen dozens of organizations step forward with educational engagement campaigns. We’ve also seen some groundbreaking positive steps from such governments as United States, and countries in Africa and Asia, to pass new legislation to ban the ivory trade, and to implement strict enforcement against wildlife crime. Yet, the situation for both African and Asian elephants continues to be exceedingly dire.


The Grand African Elephant:

The African elephant is the largest of the two species left in the world. They have extremely large ears and both the males and the females grow tusks. They can be more than 12 feet tall and weight about 14,000 pounds. There are some sub species out there that are smaller with a height of about 9 feet and weighing approximately 7,500 pounds. Either way, that's a big beautiful animal! These large mammals mainly reside in the Savannah Desert and in the thick African forests. They usually roam in herds of 12 to 20 elephants run by the eldest female. The males can choose to be part of a bachelor herd or roam alone. Both the males and females of the herd stay in contact whether or not they have broken off from the group.

The females are extremely social and will spend their entire lives in the same group. They take very good care of their offspring, and all of the females jump in to help as well. They are excellent when it comes to communicating both verbally and non verbally. They also are very protective of each other.

They exhibit a variety of behaviors including being able to identify the bone remains of other elephants. They can express a variety of emotions including sorrow when they come across them.

The African elephants are huge vegetarians! They eat up to 600 pounds of plants, trees, bark, pulp, fruits, shrubs a day! The African elephants don’t have any natural predators, but keeping them safe from humans is a very difficult job. Even with lots of conservation efforts in place to protect them from being hunted and from their habitat being destroyed all of it continues. This makes it very difficult for them to increase in numbers. There are many stories about interactions of humans and the African elephants. Some of them are very good and others are a nightmare. For the most part these are intelligent creatures that do get along well with humans. They are often used for working in the forests of Africa. They have been done to destroy villages in that area though due to the slaughter or poor treatment of some of their herd members.

As of 2011, the world is losing more elephants than the population can reproduce, threatening the future of African elephants across the continent. Bull elephants with big tusks are the main targets and their numbers have been diminished to less than half of the females. Female African elephants have tusks and are also killed, which has a terrible effect on the stability of elephant societies, leaving an increasing number of orphaned baby elephants.

Elephants and humans share a long history throughout our civilization. The expanse of the African habitat and the enormous size and aggressive posture of the African elephant has allowed it to resist captivity.

Yet while elephants have lived alongside humans for so long, there is still much we don’t know about them. With the largest brain of any land animal, they are smart, sentient, social and empathetic, qualities we strive for ourselves. We share so many characteristics with elephants that they may well be more like us than any other animal. But we are risking their future and, in the process, damaging the integral habitat required for biodiversity throughout Asia and Africa.

African Elephant herd


I have spent hours and hours watching elephants, and come to understand what emotional creatures they are…it’s not just a species facing extinction, it’s massive individual suffering.”

— – Dr. Jane Goodall

The Majestic Asian Elephant:

The Asian elephant has a huge body but with ears that are smaller than others. The males develop tusks but the females don’t. They are smaller in overall size than the African elephant species. Full grown males are approximately 12 feet tall and weigh up to 11,000 pounds. The females are smaller by a couple of feet and several thousands of pounds. Their habitat ranges over 13 countries across Asia, is an endangered species with less than 40,000 remaining worldwide – less than a tenth of the African elephant population. The Asian elephant is found in the areas of Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh. Due to changes in their natural environment they have been found in other areas including Indochina and Nepal as well as into areas of Indonesia.

Wild Asian elephants suffer severe habitat loss in some of the most densely human-populated regions on the planet. Their traditional territories and migration routes have been fragmented by development, highways and industrial mono-crops such as palm oil and rubber tree plantations, which has destroyed millions of hectares of forest ecosystems. With no access to their natural habitat, elephants are forced into deadly confrontations with humans where neither species wins.

The Asian elephants will migrate to find their food in the same pattern, as long as their habitat remains intact. They form very strong bonds among themselves and even take care of each others young. They also spend a great deal of time playing and interacting with each other. Like the African elephant, the Asian elephants also have to consume around 300-600 pounds of food a day. Their young will nurse from their mothers for about the first three years and slowly start to consume veggies during that time. Mating can take place during any time of the year. Both the males and the females will give off scents that attract them to each other. The females won’t be ready to mate until they are about 14 but many of them don’t do so until they are about 25 years of age. The males generally mate from the time they are 35 to 50 due to the competition out there for the right to do so.

Asian elephants are also poached for their ivory tusks, meat and body parts while baby elephants are captured from the wild and sold into the tourism industry. Worldwide, Asian elephants are trained, traded and used for entertainment in tourist parks and circuses, and also for illegal logging activities. These captive elephants are often mistreated, abused and confined to sub-standard facilities without adequate veterinarian care. But the Asian elephant has lived alongside humans for over 4,000 years and is imbued with reverence, tradition and spirituality across many cultures. In Thailand, the elephant is a national icon: it has a national holiday designated in its honor and elephants can receive a Royal title from the King.

The Asian elephant is one that is very domesticated in a variety of ways. They seem to be less aggressive towards humans than the African elephants. They are used by humans daily for working purposes and treated very well. They are also a part of various ceremonies that take place around Asia.

They have been known to destroy villages as well as crops though which doesn’t make everyone in Asia a big fan of them. Many tourists come to see the working elephants in action with the milling business. This tends to draw very large crowds.

Asian Elephants


“World Elephant Day is a rallying call for people to support organizations that are working to stop the illegal poaching and trade of elephant ivory and other wildlife products, protect wild elephant habitat, and provide sanctuaries and alternative habitats for domesticated elephants to live freely,” Patricia Sims, co-founder of World Elephant Day, said in a news release. Sims is a documentary filmmaker who has worked on several projects related to elephant conservation including “Return to the Forest.” Let's do what we can to save these amazing animals!

Here's what you can do to celebrate and support World Elephant Day!

Wear Grey

Wear grey: grey clothes, grey ribbons, grey hair. You get the picture.

Go Greyscale

Turn your social media profile pictures and backgrounds to greyscale (black and white).

Post or Tweet

Post about #WorldElephantDay and what #GoGrey means to you.

Donate a Post

Donate a tweet or Facebook post to elephants via our Thunderclap.

Spread the Word

Invite your friends to #GoGrey and sign up for the Thunderclap, too.

for many more ways to help the elephants and to show your support!

Stop and take the poll please!

Will you show your support and celebrate World Elephant Day every August 12th?

See results


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    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      I love elephants too. It is so tragic how we humans treat the. I really enjoyed your article. Thanks for sharing.


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